UN agency condemns air raids on refugee site in South Sudan
“Bombing of civilian areas must be condemned in the strongest terms,” Mireille Girard, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in South Sudan, said of the attacks on Elfoj in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state yesterday.
More than 78,000 people have fled conflict in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since August. An estimated 54,000 have sought safety in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state and in 24,000 in Unity state, according to UNHCR.
In the first air strike, several bombs fell at the refugee transit site, located less than 10 kilometres from the border with Sudan, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva. At the time of the raid about 5,000 refugees were at the transit site waiting to be moved to a new settlement.
Teams from UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) were supervising the relocation exercise when the first wave of bombings took place. Refugees jumped out of their trucks and fled.
The aid workers also ran for their own safety, but were later able to rapidly mobilize the refugees and the convoy of trucks left for a safer location, some 70 kilometres from the border between South Sudan and Sudan, with 1,140 individuals on board.
The trip brought to almost 11,500 the total number of refugees who have been moved from Elfoj since relocation started on 6 January. About 4,000 other refugees moved from Elfoj on their own.
There have been previous attacks on Sudanese refugees in border areas. New Gufa, an entry point for refugees in Maban County, Upper Nile state, was bombed for several days in November. Yida refugee settlement in Unity state was also hit.